Stick or twist time for Reds

THE powers that be at Barnsley face a crucial decision in the coming months – do they stick or twist?

This season’s performance, their worst since returning to the Championship six years ago, twinned with the loss of 2,500 fans over that same period should set alarm bells ringing in the Oakwell corridors of power.

But they are faced with a difficult question ahead of what could be a crucial season.

The upcoming introduction of Financial Fair Play means the playing budget will be dictated by the club’s income. While Barnsley will not need to cut their cloth to the extent of some of their divisional rivals, they could find themselves in a group of clubs cut adrift when it comes to attracting talent.

Fans will play a major part with the sale of season tickets having a huge impact on the manager’s purse and with clubs in the division boasting sales of 20,000-plus, Barnsley will again be left with one of the smallest budgets in the division.

The club will need to show signs of intent in the summer if they are to stop the decline in attendances. A ‘bums on seats’ signing is needed to convince supporters the club is not content to meander along and get left further and further behind.

So how does manager Keith Hill go about ridding his club of the relegation favourites tag they so often manage to be lumbered with?

Well, look no further than the example set by Swansea City boss Brendan Rodgers. The Swans are highly regarded for their attractive and rather successful playing style. Although the Welsh side are not a big name or footballing power, Rodgers will be able to attract players to the club during the summer because they will believe in the manager and what he is trying to achieve.

Hill has to go down a similar route. If he can build a brand of football, give the Reds an identity that everyone can relate to, he can convince players that they can further their careers in South Yorkshire. Barnsley cannot compete financially, but they can still impact on the Championship with careful recruitment.

After this season’s showing, the signs are there for what might happen next term if the club fail to smell the coffee.

A clear plan is now needed – starting with a Champagne player to whet the appetite.


Lack of progress is worrying

WHATEVER happens in Barnsley’s final game of the season at home to Brighton, the Reds will have recorded their lowest points tally since their return to the Championship six years ago.
And more worryingly, had Portsmouth not been deducted 10 points for going into administration, the Reds would be occupying that third relegation spot with one game to go.
So the question has to be asked – has the club made sufficient progress since their promotion to the Championship six years ago?
It is to their credit that Barnsley continue to defy the odds. With an average attendance in the bottom three in the division, and a budget to match, the key to the Reds survival in recent years has been their shrewd use of the transfer market.
But the alarm bells need to be ringing. This season’s survival is based on a technicality.
January was a huge month for the club, with the sale of leading scorer Vaz Te and the loss of the influential Danny Drinkwater coinciding with an injury blow to captain and key player Jacob Butterfield.
But there lies Barnsley’s Achilles heel – their need to sell key players in January could eventually come back to bite them on the proverbial.
From a financial point of view, Barnsley are probably the best run club in South Yorkshire right now. They are also the highest placed club, too. The fact that they have remained in the Championship for the past six years, when the two Sheffield clubs and now Doncaster have fallen through the trapdoor,  commands the greatest of respect, but how long can Barnsley continue to hover in and around the bottom six before it catches up with them?
And how long can Barnsley fans continue to turn up without eventually getting disillusioned with a lack of progress? The club is already 3,000 fans down from the numbers that turned up just three seasons ago.  

Keith Hill, while tasked with one of the toughest jobs in the Championship, will need to show signs of progress next season, otherwise it is not going to be long before time is called on their Championship status.

Barnsley - a tale of two halves

The million dollar question right now in South Yorkshire football is not who will win the race for second spot in League One between United and Wednesday, or whether the fans at Rotherham United will take to their new manager, but why is it that Barnsley never have a good second half to a season?

Since their return to the second tier of English football in 2006, the Reds have always failed to match the points they have gained between August and December with their tally from the remaining games from January to May.

It is a problem facing current boss Keith Hill, who has only managed four wins since the turn of the year, compared to the nine he had notched up at the time of the 4-1 spanking of Yorkshire rivals Leeds on New Year’s Eve at Oakwell.

Barnsley’s results pattern over these past seasons makes for fascinating reading.

Season       Aug to Dec     Wins    Pos      Jan  to May    Wins     Final Pos
                  (pts, games)                           (pts, games)

2006-07        26pts, 26         7          21st        24pts, 20          8               20th

2007-08        33pts, 25         8          13th         22pts, 21         6               18th

2008-09        32pts, 26         8          16th         20pts, 20          5              20th

2009-10        30pts, 22         8          15th         24pts, 24          6             18th

2010-11        29pts, 22         8          16th         27pts, 24          6              17th

2011-12        33pts, 24         9          13th         14pts, 21          4              21st

Barnsley have only won more games and finished higher in the table in the second half of a campaign in their first season back in 2006. It is also worth noting that the 2007-08 season included that fabulous FA Cup run to the semi-final at Wembley, which is surely an excusable factor for that particular campaign.

But the results, if anything, confirm that Barnsley’s past six seasons have virtually mirrored each other. It is as if it is sewn into the Oakwell fabric that once those New Year fireworks fizzle out into the night’s sky, a winless streak sets in.

There are two reasons for this.
 The sale of Vaz Te  in January was a huge loss.
Picture: Ben Sutherland
The first is that it must be hard to remain motivated when so many key players are constantly sold in January. This season, the club cashed in on Ricardo Vaz Te (West Ham) and were unable to hang on to impressive loan player Danny Drinkwater. They also lost key midfielder Jacob Butterfield to injury and in previous January transfer windows, star players such as Jamal Campbell-Ryce (to Bristol City 2010) and Adam Hammill (Wolves, 2011) have also been sold. These players have all left the club at a time when they were well placed in the league and only a couple of wins from the top six.

But the club have no choice but to cash in and, in many respects, it is to their credit they are refusing to overstretch their finances having already been in administration. Aside from being the highest placed club in South Yorkshire right now, they are also probably in the best financial state, too.

But when players see the likes of Hammill, Campbell-Ryce and Vaz Te driving away for pastures new, it leaves them with little ambition to drive forward in the second half of a season.

The club has also had four managers in the past six seasons – that is a major factor  why the club has failed to build on the previous season. Barnsley can become a force in the Championship, the likes of Blackpool have shown you don’t necessarily need  money to gain promotion.

But if Barnsley are to rub shoulders with the top 10 once again, they need to have a manager in place for the long haul and hold on to their key players – not sell them.

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